TERRE HAUTE —
Defense and rebounding are the staples of Teri Moren’s fourth Indiana State team, a squad that hits the road trying to defend and rebound its way to a regular-season conference title.
The Sycamores women’s basketball can clinch the No. 1 seed in the Missouri Valley Conference with wins tonight against Drake and Saturday against Northern Iowa.
ISU, the No. 1 defensive team in the conference at 55.6 points allowed through 16 games, faces a Bulldogs’ team that leads the league in scoring at 74.9 ppg.
The Sycamores came away with a 90-81 victory against Drake in the first meeting in Hulman Center. The Bulldogs are a heavy perimeter-oriented team, a stark contrast to the Sycamores reliance on strong post players offensively and defensively.
“They penetrate a lot. They got a lot of penetration on us [in the previous meeting],” ISU junior Racheal Mahan said. “As post players, we can play a big part in defending the basket against a team with a lot of aggressive guards.”
Junior Kendal Clark averages a league-best 21.3 points in Valley play while also ranking third in the MVC with 2.3 steals-per-game.
Freshman forward Lizzy Wendell is the No. 1 scorer among first-year players in Valley play, averaging 17.9 points.
“This is an offensively powerful basketball team. Kyndal Clark can score in a variety of ways. Lizzie Wendell has been phenomenal as a freshman. Both of those kids had 22-23 shot attempts against UNI. I think Kyndal Clark went for 41 that game. This is a dynamic duo, two kids that can really fill it up.
“But you have to be careful, you do have other pieces that understand their roles. They’re great off the bounce. It’s really like playing five guards on the perimeter. They pose some matchup problems for us, as one of the few teams in the Valley that starts two true post players.”
Those two true post players are a significant reason the Sycamores are the No. 1 team in the league in rebounding margin.
“We’ve gotten tougher, hustling after the balls. When we outrebound teams, everything else comes together,” Mahan said.
Coming off a game in which the Sycamores had 21 offensive rebounds, continued dominance in that regard will be big this weekend.
“We think that will be an advantage for us,” Moren said. “Their biggest kid is 6-foot, 6-1 so we do feel like that can be an advantage for us. They’re starting to play 40 minutes of 2-3 zone. We’re hoping our shots will fall, but if they don’t, second and third opportunities are going to be critical.”
If the Sycamores can win tonight, then Saturday’s game becomes a battle for the regular-season title. Northern Iowa (12-4) and ISU are currently tied 1/2-game behind Wichita State, which only has a home game remaining with Missouri State.
The Sycamores would have the tiebreak over the Shockers in the Valley’s power-point scenario which gives more weight to wins over teams higher in the standings.
The chance to be the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament for the second time in school history has the Sycamores pumped up to perform their best.
After falling three games behind the Shockers just a couple weeks ago, the Sycamores have new life.
“It’s real exciting because we didn’t really expect Wichita to get beat by SIU. It’s more exciting because we can actually do it; if we win these two games we’ll be first seed.